Saturday 21 November 2015

Familiar Places:Familiar Scenes

Nov 20 2015 Deas Island Regional Park/Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty/104 St. Sunny 5c.

I hadn't planned photographing anything in particular, I just wanted to visit a location I hadn't been to in a while. My first stop was Delta's Deas Island Regional Park. In the past I have had good results there with Belted Kingfishers. This time the woods were very quiet. A small flock of Chestnut-backed Chickadees foraged along the foreshore, a Double-crested Cormorant dove for fish and in the cobalt blue sky two pairs of Bald Eagles looked like they were displaying early bonding behaviour. As I walked back to my car I noticed a movement in a holly bush. At first I thought it might be a robin but as I approached closer I spotted the largest pair of eyes, it was not one but two Great Horned Owls. The one bird stared me down while the other only showed me its back (see lower portion of photo)
I left the pair in peace as it known that to disturb nocturnal owls drastically diminishes their ability to hunt.

Great-horned Owl
Note the second bird in the foreground. Sometimes photo opportunities don't work out so the best is to back off and wait for another opportunity. 

With a few hours before sunset I decided to make my way to close-by Tswawwassen to photograph a Whimbrel that has taken up residence on the cobblestone shoreline. The intertidal area is a veritable smorgasbord for shorebirds and is also home to a small flock of Black Oystercatchers, Black Turnstones and other seasonal visitors.
I was particularly interested in utilizing the late afternoons sweet light and also photographing from as low an angle as possible. Without a tripod I was able to lay on the damp rocks and wait for the action to happen.

Whimbrel with a small crab.


Sometimes a request comes from book publisher or editor for a vertical image. The above image meets this criteria leaving plenty of space at the top of the page for the magazine's name and enough space along the side to place the publications inside contents. Unless you have both orientations, the sale or use might go to another photographer.

On the way home Raymond Ng texted me about Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk on 104. When I arrived the bird was perched bird on a barn roof, I only had a few moments as the light began to dip below the horizon. I'll try for a better picture later but this image does show the white stripes on the breast, a feature the dark morph variety lacks. 

Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk

Over the weekend it has been suggested I have a stab of cleaning up the front yard before it snows. After all the wind and rain of the last few days there are leaves everywhere. I'll also re-fill the hummingbird feeder and make sure the bird feeder has fresh food and water. Maybe after all that I'll have enough time to watch the Manchester City v Liverpool game, I suppose life could be worse!

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada

Friday 20 November 2015

From 72 to 64 and Back

Nov18 2015  72nd Ave to 64th Ave and back. Sunny breaks 9c.
Yesterday I just wanted to bird and not have to bother carting around a whole bunch of heavy camera gear. Instead I took a lightweight DSLR kit with zoom lens and binoculars, that way I could cover more ground. Here are some of the results.
Mixed flock of Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Mallard and other ducks.
During winter, enormous flocks of birds are a common sight on Boundary Bay. Often as many as fifty-thousand or more waterfowl, plovers and sandpipers can be seen at any one time. On the flood tide, the birds, each with their particular niche come very close to shore, which in turn makes for excellent viewing opportunities. It is then that predators like the Peregrine Falcon and Merlin come out to hunt, sending the flocks skyward and into intricate spiralling murmurations. Meanwhile life goes on in the hedges, fields and foreshore where a variety of other species can be seen and heard.

Golden-crowned Kinglet.
Freed from the need to carry a tripod I was able to cover much more of the dyke trail than I would normally have attempted. I've always secretly envied the Canon shooters with their amazing 100mm-400mm lens, so when Nikon finally got their act together with the Nikon 200mm-500mm zoom I was especially happy. These images are with the latter and Nikon D7100. I walked for three hours before realizing it, It was like walking on air, so immersed in the experience I even forgot to eat my packed lunch. Even my thought processes subsided, allowing each moment to present itself fully...I suppose that is why so many are attracted to birding and all that goes with it.

Greater White-fronted Goose (Full frame)
I include this shot because the birds were so far away I couldn't ID them until I got home and cropped the below image. The shape of the flock triggered the idea that they weren't Canada Geese whose distinctive V flock formation is a giveaway or a raggle taggle flock of Snow Geese. As it turned out the White- fronted were a new addition to my 2015 year list, thank goodness for eBird for keeping track!

A crop of the full frame reveals the bird's identity.

Great Blue Heron.
I was attracted to this image of the heron because of what to me looked like a large pincer shape as the Heron is reflected in the water.

The Marsh Wren, noisy but secretive.

Purple Finch picking out the seeds from a Pacific Crabapple.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

A Short-eared Owl spots a vole and dives down for the kill.

After being stuck indoors for a few days, the need to commune with nature was duly satisfied. On the drive home the warmth of the car's heater made it difficult to keep from dozing off, I thought of supper, a steaming hot baked Russett potato, sliced open with a generous portion of fresh butter and grated cheddar cheese. What a way to end the day!

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
Cloverdale BC 

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Birds/Flushers and Boundary Bay

Monday Nov 9 2015 Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty Sunny and cool breeze 8c
After yesterdays 'dash and grab' performance (see previous blog) I had the whole day just go birding. The plan was to pack lunch and a flask of hot coffee, hopefully find some good birds and have lunch on the beach.
My first stop was not far along the gravel road that runs parallel to the ferry. Amongst a flock of Black Oystercatchers was a single Whimbrel. I carefully crouched down, my knees sinking into the stony beach slowly inching toward the birds so as not to alarm them. I rattled off a few shots to include both species in the frame. I was happy to wait for the birds to come closer, when out of the blue another "photographer" came barrelling down the beach between me and the birds. I know I don't have anymore more right to be there than anyone else BUT DUDE...what are you thinking! To make things worse, a women with a dog (on leash) came from behind the birds and started to take pictures with a point and shoot. Here are the results. Soon there were no birds just a few memories.

Before the flushers
Whimbrel and Black Oystercatchers before the "Flushers" arrived.

Oh well, the Whimbrel and Oystercatchers flew off to get some peace and quiet. Further down the beach I spotted what looked like a motley crew of birders. They were all looking in the same direction which meant only one thing....BIRDS!

When I arrived who do you think was there, you guessed, the dog lady with her trusty point and shoot! At least this time she tied her pet tied to a log I'm sure after getting a few stern stares from all the birders and photographers who were there. The Turnstone couldn't care less as it was pre-occupied with fattening up for the remainder of its journey.

Observing the Ruddy Turnstone performing, flipping over stones and pebbles, gobbling up anything that moved was a privilege to watch.

Ruddy Turnstone

I include this image because I like the low angle and separation of the bird from the background...

Next stop was lunch. As I poured my coffee my lunch bag took off in the wind scattering its contents into assorted flotsam on the beach. Nearby a Snow Bunting that I had seen earlier was feeding on the gravel road. It gradually got closer and closer. I sat in my car, camera balanced on the window waiting for the Snow Bunting to get close enough for a pic. Eventually I ended with three different shots I like.

Snow Bunting on the beach.

A similar background without any distractive elements.

The colours in this shot produce a warmer 'feel' than the two previous images.

So another great day was coming to a close and on my way home I decided to go off to Boundary Bay to look for American Tree Sparrows. There were none except for a small flock of Purple Finch and six Short-eared Owls.

The following three images were taken with the Nikon 200mm-500mm handheld just as the sun was setting. 
Purple Finch extracting the seeds from a Pacific Grab Apple.

 Another photographer beside me shooting a 400 F2.8 and 2x converter couldn't fit them in so quickly did the birds arrive on the scene from behind us. Handholding allowed me to react quickly enough to capture these shots. I used the D7100 and would make razor sharp prints to 16x20.

Until next time, take care and good birding!

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada

Sunday 8 November 2015

An Opportunity Too Good to Miss

Nov 8/15 Tsawwassen Ferry Jetty Overcast 9c Cloud and showers
Sunday is normally a family day, unless of course there is a mega twitch or heavens forbid a chance of a 'Lifer'
Such was the situation Sunday when I received a text from my good birding buddy Raymond Ng with the news that he was looking at a Gray-crowned Rosy Finch, a bird I had been hoping to photograph for the past 6 years. I was just about to wash the wife's car so a quick decision had to be made.
To bird or not to bird, that was the big question. No prize to guess what happened next!
Anyway, with all kinds of vague promises about when I might return I left home at 11.55 a.m driving like a lunatic when about halfway to Tsawasssen I noticed the gas gauge was on empty. Fortunately I arrived safely where I found Raymond busily photographing the Gray-crowned Rosy Finch (Hepburn's)
I quickly rattled off about thirty shots when suddenly it flew off and out of sight. I thanked Raymond profusely and was back on the road and home in Cloverdale by 1.35 p.m.
On a non-birding note I also had time to visit a car wash, the end to a perfect day.
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
Hepburn's or coastal subspecies.

Gary-Crowned Rosy Finches nest in the Arctic tundra.

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
Langley /Cloverdale
BC Canada

Thursday 5 November 2015

Hope for Birds

Nov 5/15 Hope Airport Fraser Valley BC Mixed clouds and sun 8c
The original plan was to search for Ptarmigan on local mountains east of Hope but the snow was just too thick to make any headway. We decided to return to Hope where the sun was out and the ground dry. We first checked out the sewage lagoon and creek that runs into the Fraser River just east of the airport. Our first sightings were a distant American Dipper, a Peregrine Falcon, a Red-tailed Hawk and numerous Bald Eagles.
Walking around with the Nikon 200mm-500mm allows me to shoot much like a street photographer unencumbered by a tripod. I love the freedom to shoot record shots like the ones you'll find in this blog. These are the views that birders might see on their excursions.

American Dipper.

American Kestrel patrols the airport.
This Mountain Bluebird found just west of Airport Road caught plenty of large grubs from a farmers field. Check the fence poles where it has been leaving its mark.
A pleasant surprise, a Nashville Warbler. Not what  I expected to find but a welcome addition to my goal of 300 Canadian species for 2015.

A tricky customer which wouldn't sit still. I also photographed a Palm Warbler in the same bush but didn't realize it until I sifted through my files when I returned home.
A flock of Pine Siskins feast on Alder seeds.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee.

Cheam Wetlands

I cannot believe I had never visited Cheam Wetlands just East of Chilliwack. We only had an hour of decent light in which time the thirty or so Trumpeter Swans already on the lake were joined by a further 120, quite an evening as the sun peeked out for one last time from behind the only cloud in the sky.

A newly arrived family of Trumpeter Swans

Sunset and Trumpeter Swans.
"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada


Wednesday 4 November 2015

Northern Arrivals

Nov 2 2015 Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal Sunny 12c

As I briefly mentioned in the previous blog I had gone to the ferry terminal to look for Snow Buntings, hoping to add them to my 2015 bird list. As it turned out I would have to return the next day.
After a quick scan along the shoreline revealed nothing, not even a sparrow, I stopped for lunch. The sun was warm as I watched a Common Loon now in full winter plumage catch flounder after flounder. Occasionally a Horned Grebe would join in and then a flotilla of Double-crested Cormorants swam by, diving in unison suddenly popping-up again a few minutes later.
At the ferry terminal thousands of Dunlin were being pursued by a Peregrine Falcon, the enormous flock flashing grey and white as the tiny sandpipers tried to evade the speedy predator. Even from several hundreds of metres/yards away the noise of their wings carried with the breeze across the water. Who needs National Geographic when you have these sounds and sights in our own backyard!
Just as I was leaving the ferry terminal I noticed a flock of white birds fly across the roadway, one almost got hit by a lorry. There were my Snow Buntings

I drove alone the gravel causeway where I caught up with the flock of eight birds. They were extremely skittish and would fly off everytime a loud vehicle roared by.

Anyway here are a few of my favourite shots, cropped quite a bit as the birds were hard to approach which is unusual as normally they can be quite co-operative.

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Shorebirds, Raptors and Birds of the Forest

Nov1/15 Tsawwassen Jetty Sun 12c

Following a month of World Cup rugby it was time to go birding. I suppose the piles of leaves in the driveway can wait a few more days! 
First stop was the ferry jetty in search of Snow Buntings. After looking everywhere I instead came across a pair of Black Turnstone feeding on the shoreline. 
A pair of Black Turnstones forage at the hight tide line. 

This is as close as it gets. This bird almost walked under my tripod. I held my breath so as not to flush it. 

I include this purely because I like the composition.
                The Turnstone images were taken with Nikon 500mm F4 and tripod under dull light.


All the remaining images taken handheld with the Nikon D7100 and Nikon 200mm-500mm
Dunlin in Flight
Riefel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Black-crowned night Heron

I really like the soft background in this photo.

Fall Colours

The varied tones in this images evoke the time of year. 

The Predator

I watched this Peregrine Falcon swoop over the outer ponds at Reifel. Later on I found feasting on a sandpiper which it had just caught. 

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Boundary Bay

Short-eared Owl

The discs surrounding the eyes of the owl allow it to pick-up the slightest movement in the undergrowth.

It was a full days birding. The sun shone most of the day which made for a perfect opportunity to observe some of our best west coast birds. The change of season sees some species leaving and others arriving. Some overlap the seasons, the Yellow-rumped Warbler for example has the ability change from an insect to seed diet. Until next time........

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
Langley/Cloverdale BC Canada